Sunderland vs Tottenham Hotspur, Saturday 7th April, Stadium of Light, 12.45pm kick off, SS2 &HD2
Tottenham travel up to Wearside for a Saturday lunch time game off the back of 2 very impressive performances against Bolton and Swansea. We looked back to the form we were displaying earlier in the season before we had our mini blip. The passing and movement was superb against Bolton and the pressing against a good footballing Swansea side on Sunday was vital and the key to the victory. Add to that Rafa Van Der Vaart finally seems fully fit, having his best game of the year against the Swans and the class we have in the side, it seems we are in prime position to finish the season in a vastly different manor then we did last year. Van Der Vaart isn’t the only key to making us tick but he certainly helps for me and when he is on song, like he was on Sunday, we look a better side.
Since Sunderland appointed Martin O’Neill in early December they have had an upturn in fortunes and have made their home a fortress with winning 6 games out of the 8 they have played there, including wins against Manchester City and Liverpool. Their only loss being to Arsenal. They have also only conceded 5 goals during this period. Make no bones about it, this will be a very difficult game for Spurs and our hardest one left away from home this season. Sunderland will be looking to reverse the loss they had at White Hart Lane earlier in season when a Roman Pavlyuchenko goal beat them. The Northern Irishman really is a miracle worker as he has done a remarkable job for the Black Cats with basically the same players Steve Bruce had at his disposal but the enthusiasm, man management and good feel factor he brings to a club is second to none.
One of the first things O’Neill did was install young Northern Irish winger James McClean in the team, someone who Bruce completely overlooked. He has been a sensation and brings a new dimension to Sunderland’s attacking play. I would not be surprised to see his name on the Young Player of the Year awards nominations when they are announced. With Sebastian Larsson, the skillful and quality playmaker Stephane Sessegnon, a player I wouldn’t mind having at the Lane actually, and O’Neill even getting the best out of Arsenal loanee Nicklas Bendtner, Sunderland are a dangerous attacking force that Spurs will have to be at their best to keep out.
They also play at a fast tempo and are direct so there will be no hiding place for Spurs on Saturday.
Spurs will pick from the same squad they used against Swansea but Harry Redknapp has already stated that Aaron Lennon will only participate in one of the games over the Easter period to ease the workload on the winger and to make sure he doesn’t injure himself again so soon after coming back. This is good to hear as Lennon really makes a difference to our side and gives us balance. The game definitely changed when he came on at the weekend and there was a real buzz. Having speed on both wings creates space for Modric and Van Der Vaart to work their magic and opportunities for the team. I would personally use him on Saturday, maybe from the bench again though, as without being disrespectful to Norwich we will probably have enough without him to beat them, although I see a tough game against them too.
The same situation for Lennon applies to Sir Ledley as well, as his knee problem won’t stand up to both games. There is, in fact, a good case for him to be saved for the FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea as Kaboul and Gallas have been immense in recent weeks, very solid and really have shown they have a good understanding. A lot of the Spurs faithful now believing this combination is our number one pairing. I still expect King to play on Saturday and then rest for the following weekend with Gallas the unlucky one to make way.
The rest of the team will most likely be the same as against Swansea, in the 4-2-3-1 formation, with Sandro and Super Scotty Parker in front of the back 4 to make us more secure and snub out the creativity of the Sunderland team, well in theory anyway! Adebayor will once again be very important for the link up play and bringing others into the game and it is important that he doesn’t get isolated.
Probable line up:
This is a tough away game for sure and with Arsenal playing Manchester City it is very vital that we get something out of it. We have some form again and are looking good and while Sunderland are very good at home and the atmosphere will be electric I expect us to achieve a fighting 2-1 win and keep the pressure up on all our rivals for the top 4 finish and throw the challenge down for 3rd.
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